Sunday, April 28, 2013

Homestead Eating: Manhattan Salmon Chowder

Thursday night I knew we were going to be home late, and wanting hot food on arrival.  I teach yoga Thursday nights, and this week I had a date for a healing session with a friend afterwards.  So I knew that it would be probably 10 pm before we got home.  And so, this meant a crock-pot dinner was in order.  The fridge is looking pretty bare, and I'm trying to be creative (or at least disciplined) at using the lots of food in the freezer and the pantry in order to avoid trips to Fred Myers as much as possible.

I was putting together a very un-inspired tomato and frozen veggie soup and feeling very blah-humbug about it.  I kept rifling through the empty fridge and the pantry shelves and the freezer for something to jump out at me.  And finally, on my third or so time digging through the freezer, I found it!  Last summer, after our Chitina fishing trip, my mom and I froze salmon chowder stock.  We'd made stock boiling down the bony and cartilaginous carcasses with some onions and celery and black pepercorns and such goodness.  Then we froze the stock along with the scraped off bits of salmon flesh left over after filleting.  So I grabbed a quart of this and added it to my uninspired veggie soup, instantly transforming it into a totally inspired Manhattan Salmon Chowder!

I grew up in Maine, eating New England Clam Chowdah.  In my heart of hearts, cream based chowdah has always been the only chowder worth eating.  I never understood the attraction of a tomato based chowder; and scoffed at the idea of making Manhattan Clam Chowder.  But let me tell you what.  Salmon chowder, made the manhattan way is a lovely lovely meal!  I double checked myself against the 'Joy' to be sure I was on the right track.  I always add more veggies than the recipe calls for, so that worked well - I had lima beans and peas and corn and garlic (of course!) along with the canned tomatoes- and more herbs than called for.  The recipe asked only for parsley as a garnish and some black pepper, but I put in bay, basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper.

It were delicious.  I plan to reproduce it for week night dinners this week, and add a pan of cornbread or a salad.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Three Things

Last week my Darlin'Man toured Lear Khekwaii on the Kenai Penninsula (where Seward is; next week will be the Seward Penninsula, where Nome is).  They went, among other places to Homer, where the road ends at the sea, and volcanoes rise above the shore, and people make Alaskan wines and meads.  I've never been, and would dearly love to spend a few weeks camping down there.

Coming home he brought me gifts:  Three Things.

1- a sea shell from the shore
2- Coffee beans from a local roaster
3- a set of 7 notecards, each an image of a chakra.  The cards were drawn by inmate in an arts-in-the-prisons program, and the proceeds of their sale go to supporting said program.  I like to think that he (the artist's name was male) found some solace in attuning to these vibrant and transformational energies in his own body while he was dealing with everything that comes along with a prison term.  Maybe he found some healing for what ever wound led him to commit whatever act landed him in jail.

My Darlin'Man knows me well.  I cherish all three of these.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thankful Thursdays

Today I am thankful for spring!  Spring, spring, spring!  It really is in the air folks!  There was - get this - LIQUID water... puddles of it! melting on the side of the road as I drove to the studio today!

I am grateful for two nights with my most darlin' man between his travels to the far ends of the state this month.  I'm grateful he gets to experience small Alaskan communities we've neither of us ever been to.  (He is touring with Lear Khekwaii - Fairbanks folks, there's another weekend of shows at the Empress May 11th.  It is a PHENOMENAL show!)

I am thankful for sun on snow, and still stars at night.

I'm thankful for light in the sky past 10 pm.

I am thankful for my practice, for my teachers, for my students, and most especially for the students who teach me things about myself. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Homestead Eating: From The Freezer

I spend my summers trying to harvest (from garden or woods or seasonal grocery store offerings) and preserve more food than I did the year before.  But invariably I end up with only one quart of frozen purple cauliflower, or fewer blueberries than would be necessary to have a blueberry pie every week.  I so easily trip over into a scarcity based poverty mindset.  I get fixed into the idea that we can only have such things as pie from frozen wild blueberries or canned peaches on really really special occasions.  This then leads two thing: firstly, I end up with years-old bags of lingonberries in the freezer and secondly, I rarely eat local food in the winter.  These things together make me feel like a failure of a homesteader.  I get trapped in a mind swirl of "real homesteaders eat all winter long on food they preserved in the summer.  I never make a meal like that, therefore I'm still an imposter homesteader."

Well, I looked through the odds and ends of leftover CSA produce that I'd managed to preserve over the course of the summer and stash in the freezer.  Combined with the berries and the salmon and the caribou, there was actually a lot of food there! So in the last couple of weeks I've been making a conscious effort to allow myself to actually use and EAT this bounty! 

Last night, we had a ground caribou (from the freezer) and sweet potato saute over pasta.

The night before that, we had Chitina Salmon steaks (from the freezer) with Calypso CSA broccoli (from the freezer) and quinoa.  I also made a wild Blueberry (from the freezer) crisp that was the perfect balance between not-quite-tart intensity and sweet.

A couple of weeks ago I made a Peach-Raspberry pie with Peaches (from the pantry) and Raspberries (from the freezer).  I also made a Cranberry Cake - the recipe courtesy of "Sundays at Moosewood" which was very good, but next time needs to be baked with a tinfoil cover to keep from burning - with wild Lingonberries (from the freezer).  And I made Zucchini-Cornmeal skillet cakes with grated Calypso Zucchini (from the freezer)!  And before that we had a meal of Chitina Salmon fillet (from the freezer!) with sauteed Purple Cauliflower (from the freezer) and Snow Peas (from the freezer). 

Next up:  A quart of bok-choy, more salmon, more berries, more snow peas, moose and caribou.

Not only is it a cheaper way to eat - what with the miniscule grocery bills of the last couple of weeks, it is in alignment with my concept of our little homestead and the life we strive to live on it.  And it is my practice of moving into an abundance mindset.

How do you incorporate local or seasonal eating into your life in the late winter/early spring before anything is sprouting out of the cold cold ground?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thankful Thursdays

Today I am grateful for clarity and space. 

I am so very grateful for the opportunity and the ability to hold space for inner work and transformation, to share a practice that has been (and still is) so incredibly supportive and life affirming for me. 

I am grateful for feeling adept and productive.

I am grateful for tears and for laughter.  For old old hands that put a live yarn into mine and taught me the act of creation and about myself.  

I am thankful that my Darlin'Man made it safely south through snowy mountains.  I am thankful his show is being received well.

I am thankful for the forced quiet brought by the recent snow and cold, cold temperatures.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring Snow and Dry Cabin

It is snowing.  Its been snowing and what the radio calls 'snow mist' -ing for days now.  On the bright side, the insulation of heavy clouds and fluffy snow is keeping the temperature around 10 degrees.  A few days ago it dropped to 17 below overnight.  On another bright side, it means that it doesn't matter that I forgot to brush the snow off of the solar panels this morning, because they would have just gotten re-covered by the white stuff.  It is the kind of lovely snow that is picturesque and full of promises of mulled wine and holiday cheer when it falls in December, and pretty enough in February.  But when it falls in April, it just makes me sad.  I try to live graciously in the climate I've placed myself in, and in tune with these seasons, but it is hard sometimes when you see facebook and garden blogs exploding with forsythia, tulips, and daffodils as another few inches of snow accumulates on the feet from the winter outside your windows.  But.  It is better - at least for the growing things - than last year when it got so warm it all melted, and then got really cold again in March/April.  This way, roots have the insulation.

Water Jugs
 It is so easy, in this space, to only speak about the good in life.  To let it become a feel-good space, affirming to myself, that yes - I am making a homestead and art.  But frequently the truth is far from it.  Like earlier this winter when I didn't post about the generator breaking, or about how it made me feel panicked and trapped in a cold house too far away from everything.  Or I didn't post about the expensive fix to the generator and how proud I am/was of my man for figuring it out. 

And now, we're back to a dry cabin lifestyle.  That's a thing here in Fairbanks, where otherwise-first-world-abiding people choose to live without running water.  It makes things simpler in a way, no pipes to worry about freezing or plumbing to back up.  And it makes things like showers, dishwashing, and hand washing more difficult.  We lived in a dry cabin for years, and a good part of me loves the lifestyle.  It is more immediate, more involved somehow with the basics in life.  And when you haul each gallon of water you use, the statistical 176 gallons of water an average american uses a day becomes that much more absurd, privileged, and wasteful.  We used to haul an average of 35  gallons a week for two people, a dog, and a cat or two (excluding infrequent showers, toilet, sink etc use elsewhere). 

And now, we're back to it!  We're hauling drinking and washing and cooking water one 5-gallon blue jug at a time.  On the bright side, I drive past the best water hole in Interior Alaska twice a day on my way into and out of town.  Fox water is famous hereabouts.  One of the main reasons I wanted the Homestead to have water is because I do not relish the idea of cloth-diapering without running water.  I've contemplated it.  I know of people who do it.  But I'm not sure that truly, I'm game for it...  So, I was so happy that our home came with a well and a septic.  But apparently this year is the winter that reminds us of our dependance, and teaches us how to fix the systems we live with, because neither the well nor the septic are functioning properly.

The plumbing has been off and on letting noxious septic scents into the house, and the main septic line under the house has a crack in it.  It has a seasonal (and growing!) patch to the leak, otherwise known as a glacier around it.  So that's been on the top of the spring-time projects list for a while now.  And now we get to add the well line to it.  We don't actually know what is wrong.  We unplugged the heat tape (too early), so it may just be frozen.  But the well pump is running fine, and the well mate inside is registering as empty and asking for water, but nothing is coming out of the taps.  So somewhere between 100 feet underground in the water table and inside our house, we have a problem.  I'm trying to think of it as an opportunity for learning.  And maybe a small challenge from the universe- after all, plumbing was the one thing I thought I wasn't comfortable with/interested in figuring out if we were to build our house... 

But it'll make a great story once its all fixed; and will provide me with DIY bragging rights the like of which I've yet to acquire.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thankful Thursdays

Today I am thankful for the sun.  For melting snow.  For Dry Roads on the way home!

I am thankful for my health, and the vibrancy of those around me.

I am thankful for my practice.

I am thankful for my students and for my teachers.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Frugal Finds

  I found this necklace the other day at Value Village, the only worthwhile albeit usually overpriced local thrift store.  It cost me a whopping $5.99 - which while it flies in the face of my 'thrift jewelry shouldn't cost more than two dollars" mentality - is a  far cry from the cost of this necklace.  I have been lusting for the necklaces that Sundance carries and contemplated making similar ones.  But the beauty of them is in the diversity of the small bits beautiful stone and metal, and it is difficult to acquire such a diversity without deep pocketed investment in wholesale quantities, so I have yet to do so.  But Sundance charges $138-400 for a necklace that I know I could make myself...  or find for under $6!   So I'm pretty happy with that.   And decided I needed to brag about my amazingly styled frugality....

Edited 4/14 to add this lovely photo, per reader request:

necklace closeup